While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus— ‘God saves’— because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:
Watch for this— a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).
Christmas is tomorrow and I am finishing up lists I thought would never get finished. The house is filled with people and the kids are bouncing off the walls with excitement. It’s Christmas!
In the middle of the ham and potatoes, the gifts and the glow of the Christmas tree, there is Jesus.
“Only He who has experienced it can believe what the love of Jesus Christ is,”
Bernard of Clairvaux wrote.
If I were to take all the stories of the family of Jesus, I could plop them on a timeline. Abraham, Joseph, Ruth, Jonah, Habakkuk, Mary. Of course there are hundreds in between that I missed, but eventually we would come to Jesus. The Messiah. The one who had been promised and who they had been searching for all these years. He came from a line of cheaters and liars, of prostitutes and quitters. His descendants were sincere and loved deeply, they worshipped without passion and chased miracles. There was sorrow, bitterness, grief and stubborn hope in the lives of those whose blood ran in His veins.
They were real people.
And then Jesus was born, in a crowded village, breaking into history and breathing hope into a weary world. His life and death and resurrection changed everything, of course. Not just because He came, but because He came for you.
On that very first Christmas, there were shepherds watching the very sheep that would one day be sacrificed for the sins of the people. But a new way was coming, and He had arrived! These tired and poor shepherds were the ones the Angels appeared to, the ones who heard the news firsthand… and their response is amazing. It’s recorded that the shepherds hurried to see Jesus, then they spread the news as fast as they could. Their hearts were kindled.
Years later, after Jesus had died and was resurrected, He appeared to a few of His disciples as they were walking from one town to another. Only they didn’t recognize Him for a very long time. When their eyes were opened, they looked at each other and exclaimed, “Were not our hearts burning within us?” (Luke 24:32).
Lean in, my friend. This story is for you, in your emptiness and fear. In your broken promises and tension of the season. The family tree of Jesus didn’t end with Him. He has grafted you in. There’s a place for you. Let your faith be kindled, let your heart begin to burn.
I don’t know where you find yourself this season, but I do know that God does His best work in weakness, when we feel like we can’t possibly go another step, He is there.
Perhaps you feel like Mary, with empty places and an empty heart. Allow Him to rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
Or maybe you are Habakkuk, and you must resolve in your hearts to praise Him, even in the midst of broken promises and dreams. He hears your cries.
Do you find yourself in Jonah, exhausted from running away from God? Listen to Him calls you back to Him. It’s never too late to run into His arms.
Just like Naomi, He takes your broken hearts and deep bitterness and He gives Himself as your Kinsman-Redeemer, handing you new life and healing.
Do you need to be reminded of Joseph, and how God’s power gives you strength to choose forgiveness? Only with Him can we stand and declare that what was intended to harm us turns to good.
That’s when we discover that just like Abraham, when we open our eyes to the hurt of the world, we see that our lives can be a blessing to others, even in our grief. In our unforgiveness. In our bitterness and emptiness. Slowly, as the walls of our hearts crumble, a new day comes as God heals our broken hearts.
This is the story of Jesus. Feel your heart burning within you and grab ahold of it. The tree with its’ handmade ornaments will soon come down, the lights will return to the tote in the basement. But because of Jesus, you have been given the True Light.
Jesus, the hope of the world, has come.